We flew from Paris to Pisa, where we took a train to La Spezia and then on to Riomaggiore. We stayed in the coolest place in Riomaggiore with a balcony overlooking the city and the sea. (Here is where we stayed.) We weren't in Cinque Terre very long but it was the perfect amount of time to sufficiently explore all 5 towns in that region. We were there 2 nights (1 full day and about two 1/2 days). Originally we were only going to spend one night in Cinque Terre but decided that in order to truly have 1 full day that would require 2 nights. I'm so glad we added that extra night so we wouldn't have to feel stressed while exploring these beautiful villages about rushing off to the next city on our trip.
Cinque Terre means five lands and can be found on the Italian Rivera. It is made up of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. This leg of our trip was very different from the rest of the cities we visited. In this area we didn't need a map of sites to visit or a list of restaurants to go to. It was relaxed and calm. I was drawn to this place because of it's bright, colorful buildings and it did not disappoint. It was absolutely gorgeous.
These few sites were helpful in planning our stay: Beginners Guide to Cinque Terre, Hiking Cinque Terre Trails, Quick guide to Cinque Terre
Here is our itinerary:
Evening upon arrival [Wednesday]:
Train from Pisa to La Spezia
Train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore
Buy hiking pass for tomorrow
Check in to Hotel
Dinner on the water
Gelato for dessert while watching the sunset in the bay
Wandering Riomaggiore's street
To-go pesto pasta snack before bed on balcony
Day 1 [Thursday]:
Mini breakfast of croissants and freshly squeezed blood orange juice in Riomaggiore
Ferry to Monterosso at 9:15 (first boat has no stops)
2nd mini breakfast in Monterosso (more pastries and juice)
Walk around Monterosso streets
Hike Monterosso to Vernazza (1 hour 45 minutes hike)
Lunch in Vernazza (pizza on the bay)
Hike Vernazza to Corniglia (1 hour 30 minutes)
Juice break at 1/2 way point
Gelato in Corniglia
Train Corniglia to Manarola (hiking path is closed)
Explore Manarola to lookout point
Train Manarola to Riomaggiore (hiking path is closed)
Shower (very sweaty from hiking) and clean up for dinner
Dinner in Riomaggiore (to-go pesto, bruschetta, and mix calamari and of course gelato for dessert)
Sunset on the bay
Day 2 [Friday]:
Breakfast of croissants and freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Train to La Spezia
Getting to Riomaggiore was a bit of a disaster. We needed to take a train from Pisa to La Spezia and then another train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore. There was a train strike in Italy the day we arrived and most of the trains were canceled. The first train to La Spezia got canceled and then the second train got canceled. Both canceled trains were going to be on platform 6 and then finally a train was really going to leave to La Spezia from platform 7. After hauling our bags all over the place, from the Pisa airport to the train station and to various trains and platforms, we hurried to the train on platform 7 and accidentally left my coat on the train on platform 6, with my phone in my pocket. We realized about 2 minutes later and hurried back to grab it and just my phone was gone from the pocket. I was pretty upset about it. It just made me feel sick. We both said that we almost wish that we would have just forgotten about my coat all together and just chalked up the lost phone to forgetfulness instead of thievery. I was mad not only because I just had my phone stolen but because it had our European SIM card in it and now we were left without one. I was worried about how we were going to navigate the rest of our trip or communicate with our Airbnb hosts...etc. I was also annoyed because it was such a crappy phone. It was a really old iPhone 5c with a cracked screen and to add to that the speakers didn't work, like it didn't even ring. I really think this phone was only valuable to me. I hope whoever stole it took one look at it and just threw it in the trash (instead of stealing any of my information that might have been on it).
Anyway... After the cell phone debacle we did finally make it to Riomaggiore. And Riomaggiore (and some gelato) was just what I needed to feel a little bit better. It was surreal to be there in person after having looked at 1,000,000 pictures of this crazy place on the internet before coming. This was the only place on our trip where we didn't stay in an Airbnb. In Riomaggiore we stayed in a little hotel called La Baia di Rio. I'm not entirely sure how I found this place, maybe just browsing Trip Adviser, but I'm so glad I did. It was awesome. Our first night there we stayed in this great room with a sweet balcony over looking the city and the sea. It was the perfect place for me to take some fun pictures of Riomaggiore.
^^We thought it was funny that they had this canvas print of Monet's Poppies on the wall because we had just seen the original painting at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.
We actually had to change rooms for our second night because someone had reserved the balcony room before I was able to. We could have stayed in the balcony-less room both nights but I'm so glad we didn't and that we got to enjoy that sweet view for at least one night. Our other view wasn't too bad either though, just no balcony.
After getting checked in we headed down to have some dinner right by the ocean. Our view while eating was fabulous. We tried to be adventurous and got a shrimp salad (I saw adventurous because neither Jordan or I really love seafood). We also got some bruschetta, which is totally different in Cinque Terre than what we thought it was, still yummy though.
^^Jordan says that the green shutter salesman must be doing pretty well...
After dinner we of course got some gelato and ate it on the rocks while watching the sunset. It couldn't have been anymore perfect. I think my favorite gelato flavor of the trip was stracciatella, which was pretty much just chocolate chip. We did also have some pretty delicious blood orange gelato though the next day in Corniglia.
^^We each only brought 4 shirts and somehow we ended up on the same rotation and both wore our green shirts on the same day...twice. Twinners.
After the sunset we wandered up through Riomaggiore's street (it was literally just one main street in town), exploring what this little town had to offer. We ended up getting some to-go pesto pasta before heading up for bed. (To-go food was all the rage in Cinque Terre. I already have a great love of to-go food and I'm glad that this tiny region is finally discovering it's magic.) I'm a pesto lover and since pesto was originated in this area we were excited to try some, and we were sure to eat lots of it in the next few days.
We ate our pesto out on the balcony while I snapped some pictures of Riomaggiore at night.
Our hotel host told us that the best way to explore all of the cities is to get an early start and take the first ferry to Monterosso because the first one goes all the way without stopping (the other ferries stop in each city all the way down and back). When she said early start I was expecting to hear like 7 or maybe 8, but the first ferry was at 9:15, which almost felt like sleeping in compared to the rest of our trip (and life at home with babies). She also recommended not eating a big breakfast before getting on the boat in case there was rough water.
I'm not sure what to call these little alleyway stairway things but to get down to the main street from our hotel we had to walk down lots of steep stairs with turnoffs every which way. (I was SO glad we didn't have the girls at this point on our trip.)
We got a little breakfast, a pastry and a freshly squeezed blood orange juice before heading to buy tickets and wait for the ferry. We loved the little ferry ride to Monterosso. It was great because we got a little glimpse of each town on our way.
Monterosso is more of a resort town than Riomaggiore and most of the big day tours seemed to start there. We saw big groups of people walking in to town while we were there. We found a little bit more breakfast and explored the shops and town.
^^That's a little WWII bunker. It's crazy to me that the war even impacted a tiny little town like this one.
^^I was having a hard time figuring out the climate of this place. There were cactus, roses, vineyards, and flowers, with an occasional palm tree all right next to the Mediterranean Sea. Definitely like nothing I had ever experienced before.
^^I loved these little 3 wheel trucks. I was trying to imagine what the people at Discount Tire would do if I drove up with one of those and asked for 3 new tires instead of 4. Some of them sat 2 people in the front but most of them only sat 1, the driver.
Before heading out on our hike we walked down to the free beach and found some huge dry rocks to sit on while we dipped our toes in the Mediterranean. It was freezing but felt pretty refreshing.
Then we started the first big hike of the day from Monterosso to Vernazza. It was about an hour and 45 minutes of hiking along the cliffs and hills full of vineyards and olive trees. It was very beautiful. On this hike we met 2 BYU alums who were backpacking through Europe for 6 and 10 weeks, as well as 2 other people from Draper. Such a small world.
I had heard that it's fun to see every town and eat something in each one. It was about lunch time when we got to Vernazza, but we were so hot and sweaty from the heat and hike that we opted for dessert first and stopped for some gelato. After cooling down we found a cute little spot for lunch.
After lunch we explored Vernaza for a few minutes and then started our next big hike of the day, to Corniglia. This hike was very much like the previous hike the only exception being a sweet little cafe at the 1/2 way point. We stopped for a bathroom and juice break. I have never sipped a beverage while looking at such a stunning view in my entire life. Plus, I can't get over the blood orange juice! It was SO tasty. I was already a big blood orange fan and now I'm completely hooked for life. This drink was actually lemon blood orange juice. Pretty tasty!
Corniglia is different from the other 4 towns because it is set up on the hilltop instead of on the water. We stopped and rested our feet while eating some more gelato. By this point my feet were hurting me pretty badly. So I was secretly pretty glad the hiking trail between Corniglia and Manarola was closed. We took the train instead except the hike down to the train station in Corniglia was nuts! I read online that there are 365 steps down (or up depending on which way you're going).
Once we got to Manarola we were unfortunately way too full to eat anything so we just went to the lookout spot and enjoyed the fantastic view for quite a while. There were lots of people swimming in the little bay and it looked like lots of fun (especially since we were so hot and sweaty. Italy was SOOO much hotter than Paris or London).
After Manarola we rode the train back "home" to Riomaggiore to enjoy our last night in this fun place. We got some more to-go pesto for dinner, as well as another bruschetta. We were brave and also ordered a mixed calamari cup, that had fried octopus, anchovies, and squid (I say we were brave, but I honestly wasn't brave enough to try most of it.) We watched the sunset again while laughing about our crazy calamari. There was a family with 4 older/grown children who were watching the sunset form the same spot as us. We got chatting with the mom and she said, "Everyone wants me to ask if you guys are on your honeymoon. Are you?" Haha! They were pretty shocked when I said that it would be 6 years in August and that we even have 2 kids! They told us we still have "the glow." I liked that.
^^Where does the sky stop and sea start?
Next stops Pisa and Rome!